Wanderlei Silva gets new foe (Rich Franklin), attacks old one (Vitor Belfort)
Bye-bye, Brazil. (And hello, Plan C.)
Just five weeks ago, UFC president Dana White and mouthy middleweight Chael Sonnen, slated to challenge champion Anderson Silva for the belt, flew all the way to Rio de Janeiro to appear at a press conference with Silva and announce that the much-anticipated rematch would not take place in Brazil, as scheduled, but was being moved to Las Vegas.
Because Rio was playing host to a United Nations sustainability conference the week of June 23, it wasn’t feasible to hold a stadium-sized event in the city that night. So Silva-Sonnen II was shifted to the States, and UFC 147 was moved 200 miles north to an arena in Belo Horizonte, to be headlined by a clash of a couple of other national MMA treasures, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort.
Well, so much for Plan B.
On Saturday night, talking to reporters after still another Brazilian dynamo, Junior dos Santos, had successfully defended his heavyweight belt, White revealed that he’d just been informed Belfort had broke his left hand in training. The fight was off. (Sort of.)
Silva got a new opponent Wednesday, as the UFC announced that Rich Franklin will step in to face "The Axe Murderer" in a 190-pound catchweight fight on the June 23 card. Franklin had been scheduled to fight Cung Le two weeks later at UFC 148.
Perhaps this new Plan C will shift Silva's focus away from attacking Belfort, his opposing coach on the first Brazilian edition of The Ultimate Fighter reality-TV show. In the days following the news reports that Belfort had to pull out of their fight because of injury, Silva continued to unleash his fury.
“I guess you got scared of me,” Silva raged via Twitter on Tuesday. (He was writing in Portuguese, but the Brazilian magazine Tatame provided a translation.) “Nobody trains so hard that [he] breaks his hand. We use the best equipments, gloves, bandages. If you were scared, you shouldn’t have accepted [the fight]. If you really got it broken, it’s amateurism. And if you didn’t, you’re scared. In both scenarios, it was irresponsible of you towards the fans.”
Those are some curious accusations from Silva, who as recently as two years ago injured himself during training and had to pull out of a fight. How “irresponsible” for him to have forgotten that. And Silva’s memory clearly does not extend back 14 years, when Belfort was so “scared” of being in the cage with him that he knocked out Silva in 44 seconds. That was when Wanderlei was Wanderlei, too. In recent years he’s been a shell of his fearsome old self, losing six of his nine bouts since 2006. One of those defeats was a 2009 unanimous-decision loss to Franklin, who apparently was not too scared to step up on short notice for a rematch.
-- Jeff Wagenheim